In February of 2022, we interviewed John Leshy about his book, OUR COMMON GROUND: A HISTORY OF AMERICA’S PUBLIC LANDS. That interview can be heard on the forthright.media website. And in fact, the history of America’s public lands is an evolving story. It has always been a tale of competing interests and ideologies with tremendous consequences for not only American citizens, but all of Nature on this continent and as we learn more and more, the entire biosphere.
Our guest today on Forthright Radio, environmental writer, activist and psychoanalyst, Joseph Scalia, III, brought to our attention what’s at stake in the recent revision of a National Forest Service Plan that affects the area bordering the north of Yellowstone National Park.
Joseph Scalia writes, “The Gallatin Range is the last crucial, and wholly unprotected yet indispensable wild country in the northern reaches of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a vast wild land of some 20 million acres, a true rare find in today’s world of diminishing wild country. Here lives all of the fauna of its pre-1492 conditions.”
“In the Rocky Mountain West, in addition to the despoliation of wild lands by extractive industries as well as misguided efforts at “forest management” – which itself has become a hotly contested and too-often perverted concept, recreation has proved to be a major threat to both the ecological and the aesthetic or spiritual values of these lands. Over and over and over, we have carved up wilderness for another and yet another “use” that degrades its integrity. The policy that has dominated this unending subdivision that eschews rigorous reflections on both ecological science and conservation aesthetics and losses of opportunities for quietude has been known as “collaboration and compromise.”
“This model has been promoted by neoliberal capitalist or, one could accurately say here, predatory capitalist corporate foundations on whose grants most Big Green environmental groups have grown dependent for their survival. This is Cornel West’s “the commodification of everybody and everything.” It’s not just that monetary reward drives decisions, but more that corporatization has been unfettered and ubiquitous in its social engineering that has us, as a collective, thinking we can go on indefinitely and with impunity in such acts as the unending subdivision of nature.”
“What if environmental leaders did not acquiesce to putatively dominant unfriendliness to Wilderness designation? What if they didn’t conform to the story that’s publicly delivered? What if, instead, they got out in front, and argued forcefully – with all the big-money resources they have to potentiate such efforts – what if they argued passionately, persuasively for broad Wilderness protections that are based upon ecosystem considerations, without succumbing to what Aldo Leopold called political and economic expediency? Expediency. A good word: “The quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral; convenience.”
Journalist Todd Wilkinson, who has also been our guest, called it “industrial-strength outdoor recreation,” supported by “the outdoor recreation industrial complex” and its consumptive consumerism.
The program ends with excerpts from Judi Bari’s talk at an event recorded at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians on April 23, 1993, and a poem by Dr. Ian McCallum, “Wilderness,” (links to both below).
We recorded this interview on June 6, 2022.
Here are links to articles pertinent to this interview:
Must Environmental Leaders Conform? Or Dare We Actually Lead? https://rewilding.org/must-environmental-leaders-conform-or-dare-we-actually-lead/
How did wildlife groups start collaborating in the destruction of nature? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/24/how-did-wildlife-groups-start-collaborating-in-the-destruction-of-nature-
Has ‘Collaborative Conservation’ Reached Its Limits? https://mountainjournal.org/the-failures-and-limits-of-collaborative-conservation
The Inherent Trauma of Conservation https://outsidebozeman.com/culture/conservation/the-inherent-trauma-conservation
Can the Wolf Unite Us? Environmental Leadership in Polarized Times https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/11/03/can-the-wolf-unite-us-environmental-leadership-in-polarized-times/
For the Wolf https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/10/01/for-the-wolf/
Terra & Demos: A Unified Ethics for Conservation and the Human Quest https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/06/terra-demos-a-unified-ethics-for-conservation-and-the-human-quest/
Yellowstone, Environmental Collapse, and Compromised Thinking https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/08/31/yellowstone-environmental-collapse-and-compromised-thinking/
Return to Leopold: Dare We Speak Up for Yellowstone? https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/08/21/return-to-leopold-dare-we-speak-up-for-yellowstone/
Yellowstone Imperiled by Compromise https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/08/13/yellowstone-imperiled-by-compromise/
Conserving Politics or Conserving Nature? https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/05/07/conserving-politics-or-conserving-nature/
An Ethical Imperative: the Visionary “Impossible” in the Northern Rockies https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/05/04/an-ethical-imperative-the-visionary-impossible-in-the-northern-rockies/
A fight over wolves pits facts against feelings in Wisconsin https://undark.org/2022/06/06/a-fight-over-wolves-pits-facts-against-feelings-in-wisconsin/
After killing wolf, Gianforte signs bills allowing strangulation, expanded hunting of wolves https://missoulacurrent.com/outdoors/2021/04/gianforte-wolves/
Judi Bari Revolutionary Ecology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-yKQxV1AIs
Dr Ian McCallum recites his poem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kh7VC57Vs0